Doggie Duty: Picking up after Fido proves lucrative for Monona couple
Canine Butlers: At Madison’s Sycamore Dog Park, Jordy and Peter Natzke (and dog Cooper) are flanked by their sons, Joshua, far left, and Matthew, far right.
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When Peter Natzke turned 40, he started a side business he’d long been contemplating. “Some people buy a Mustang when they turn 40,” he laughs. He and his wife, Jordy, started Canine Butler Pet Waste Removal. After spending years picking up after his own dog, Peter said he “figured someone out there would pay to have someone else do this.” Twelve years later, the family business is thriving.
Their slogan reads, “We’re #1 in picking up Fido’s #2.”
“Ninety-five percent of the time, we’re extremely proud of this. ... Five percent of the time we’re like, ‘What are we doing?’” — Peter Natzke
On a Saturday morning in March, Peter, 51, backs his silver pickup truck toward the Sycamore Dog Park’s chain-link fence. Moments later, he and his sons, Joshua, 27, and Matthew, 25, lift heavy bags of dog waste out of the park’s 55-gallon drums and hoist them over the fence and into the truck. Sometimes the bags break open, but not today. “On two,” Peter instructs. “One, two ...” They grunt under the weight of each bag.
It is 8 a.m., and the family will be removing dog waste from parks, yards, and buckets until sundown.
Making dog business their business has proven lucrative for the Natzkes. Their initial goal was to put their boys through college, and they’re very proud that Canine Butler did, without the help of any student loans. Meanwhile, the business has continued to grow. “We can’t stop now,” Jordy admits. “Once we reach 180 customers, we’re in six figures, and we’re not far off. This company is our security.”
With three UW degrees between them, Peter and Jordy also hold down full-time jobs. He travels most of the week as a salesman, while she is a speech pathologist. Their “side business” now has 120 weekly customers and includes a contract with the City of Madison to dispose of waste at its 10 dog parks. Jordy recently cut back on her speech pathology job to accommodate the growth. “We can’t tell our customers that we won’t be there. I’m on vacation this week from my main job to pick up poop,” she says.
Spring in their step
This is the Canine Butler’s busiest time of year, as customers call for one-time yard cleanups after as much as six months of neglect. The unusually harsh winter, which kept people from going outside to pick up after their pets, is mostly to blame. With snowfalls every few days, layer upon layer of waste accumulated.
Spring cleanups have increased 100% over 2013, the Natzkes report, and have taken them from Prairie du Sac to Mazomanie, from Mount Horeb to Janesville.
The business now requires at least 30 staff hours a week, including administrative work. Consequently, the Natzkes work seven days a week, 52 weeks a year — rain, snow, or worse.